Canning tomatoes comes with a lot of questions: For starters, do tomatoes need to be pressure canned? Can you process tomatoes in a water bath canner instead of a pressure canner?
When you are canning tomatoes, you have a choice as to how you want to process them. Tomatoes are right at the borderline of being a high-acid food.
The recipe below is for a raw pack. Meaning you don’t cook the tomatoes first. They go in the jars raw. And then you will process the jars in either a water bath canner OR a pressure canner. Because it is safe to do it with either method.
If you want to use a hot packing method check out canning tomato sauce. Because if you cook them first they’ll get saucy.
(See safety recommendations for more information.) Water bath canning tomatoes and pressure canning tomatoes are both included on this page.
This Page Includes
Canning Tomatoes: Extended, Step-By-Step Directions for Raw Pack
Gather Canning Supplies for Canning Tomatoes:
- pressure canner
- canning jars
- canning lids and rings
- jar lifter and canning funnel
- large pot of water or blancher
- large spoons
- sharp knife
- towels and dish cloths
- tomatoes – I’m using Roma tomatoes on this page, but other varieties work as well.
- canning salt (optional)
- lemon juice (or citric acid)
Start by preparing your jars and getting water in your canner heating. (See information below about using water bath canning vs. pressure canning.)
Peel the Tomatoes
Depending on the size of the tomato, blanch 4 to 6 at a time. In these pictures, I am working with Roma tomatoes. I like them for canning because they are meatier than other tomatoes. They are smaller, so I can fit more in the blancher at one time.
If you have a blancher or blanching basket, that makes it easier, but you can also just use a slotted spoon and a big pot of boiling water.
How Do You Can Fresh Tomatoes?
Wash tomatoes and dip in a large pot of boiling water for 30-60 seconds or until you see the skins split. Start counting as soon as the tomatoes hit the water. You don’t need to wait for the water to come back to a boil to start your count time. It works best to watch for the skins to start splitting but sometimes they just don’t. So don’t go longer than 60 seconds or so.
When you remove the tomatoes, drop them immediately into a sink or bowl of cold water to stop the cooking.
Slip off skins and quarter tomatoes with a paring knife. The skins should just slide off in your hands. Occasionally I’ll use a knife on some stubborn spots.
You’ll need to add lemon juice to each jar of tomatoes, this bumps the ph levels and makes them high acid enough for home canning. It doesn’t matter if you use a waterbath or pressure canner. These recipes are geared for tomatoes with added acidity. Don’t skip this. Sometimes people say they don’t like the flavor of the lemon juice. I’ve never noticed a taste difference.
Add bottled lemon juice or citric acid to the jars: Use 2 Tablespoons lemon juice per quart or 1 Tablespoon lemon juice per pint. (For citric acid, use 1/2 tsp. per quart or 1/4 tsp. per pint instead.)
If desired, also add 1 teaspoon of salt per quart jar or 1/2 tsp. salt per pint to the jars, if desired.
As you skin the tomatoes, slice them in halves or quarters, whatever you you prefer. (I will sometimes even leave my Roma tomatoes whole.) Place them directly into your jars.
Your jars should be warm when you are working with your tomatoes. I’ll usually just have them in a sink or pan of hot water. You can also run a dishwasher rinse cycle with the jars and then leave them in the steamy dishwasher until you are ready to fill each one. Learn why sterilizing jars isn’t required.
Press down on the tomatoes in the jar until spaces between them fill with juice. This will crush them slightly. Leave 1/2-inch headspace.
Repeat steps until all tomatoes are skinned and chopped. You may need to let your water come back to heat in between batches in the blancher.
Remove air bubbles with a small utensil–I find an orange peeler works great for this step.
Be sure and wipe the rims of your jars clean before placing your lids on. If there are bits of food, it may interfere with the seal. Place lids and screw bands on the jars and place in the canner on a rack. Process according to Water Bath or Pressure Canning Instructions.
Remember how your jars were hot when you filled them? They will most likely cool when you add the tomatoes, thus you should have the water in your canner warm/hot, but not boiling. You don’t want a drastic change in temperature. Canning jars are pretty sturdy, so they will handle some temperature change…but I’d still not risk placing cool or even room temperature jars in boiling water.
So in short, have the canner water hot, but not boiling hot, when you fill it with the jars.
Don’t Add Water!
Now keep in mind these are raw packed in their own juice. You should not add water to your jars. If you add water, you change the acidity and there are different processing instructions in those circumstances.
Also, keep in mind that these tomatoes will float (like in the picture above). It is just a fact of this method of canning. Tomatoes will end up at the top of the jars after processing with more liquid at the bottom.
It is prettier to make a tomato sauce, but this style of whole tomatoes has its place in many of my recipes, so I always do a bunch like this. With this style, you can even pull out the tomatoes in the middle of winter to put on a salad. Definitely mushier than fresh, but they still hold together well enough.
Processing Directions for Canning Tomatoes
Processing for a Pressure Canner
Process both pints or quarts for 25 minutes.
Processing for a Water Bath Canner
Process both pints or quarts 85 minutes.
(Be sure to adjust processing according to your altitude, using charts below. For more information, see this altitude adjustments page.)
Canning Tomatoes Raw Pack
- Canning salt optional
- Lemon juice or citric acid
- Water bath or pressure canner
- Canning jars, seals, and rings
- Canning funnel, lid lifter, and jar lifter
- Ladle and bubble tool
- Start by preparing jars and getting water in the canner heating. You want the canner hot, but not boiling, when the jars are ready to be processed.If you are new to using a pressure canner, see this article for full pressure canning instructions. This includes more detailed information and step-by-step instructions on how a pressure canner works. See full water bath canning instructions here.
Raw Pack only
- Peel tomatoes.
- Halve or quarter tomatoes. (You can leave small or roma tomatoes whole.)
- Add lemon juice to hot jar, 2 Tbsp. per quart or 1 Tbsp. per pint. (For citric acid, use 1/2 tsp. per quart or 1/4 tsp. per pint instead of the lemon juice.) If desired, add canning salt (1 tsp. per quart or 1/2 tsp. per pint).
- Pack tomatoes into jar, pressing down to fill space with juice.
- Leave 1/2” headspace.
- Remove air bubbles, wipe the rim clean, and place seal and ring. Place jar in the warm canner. Proceed to fill all jars. Process according to directions below.
Altitude – Dial Gauge 0-2,000 ft – 11 pounds 2,001 – 4,000 ft – 12 pounds 4,001 – 6,000 ft – 13 pounds 6,001 – 8,000 ft – 14 pounds Altitude – Weighted Gauge 0-1,000 ft – 10 pounds 1,001 – 8,000 ft – 15 pounds
Adapted from: The National Center for Home Food Preservation
Last Updated: 5/15/2021
Canning Tomatoes Tips & FAQs
When I’m canning tomatoes, I like to have two pots set up in my double sink. The one on the left is for the cold water to cool the tomatoes as they come out of the blancher. The one on the right is to catch the skins as I slide them off.
The pots are lower than if you set them on a counter, making it easier on the arms, while the sink makes for easy cleanup.
Yes it is a good idea to add lemon juice or some sort of acidification to your home-canned tomatoes. It all has to do with the acidity. For more information on why acidifying your tomatoes is important, please read Canning Tomatoes Safely. Get the answers to do you really need lemon juice/citric acid? What’s the big deal, anyway?
I explain how to can tomatoes in this article, but another option is to freeze your tomatoes prior to canning them. When you thaw them out, the skins slip right off. Check out this page for more information. Information about freezing tomatoes can be found here.
This is probably normal. If the bubbles are small and not moving like they are fermenting then it is fine. If you have movement in the jar then it is possible you’ve got spoilage happening.
Yes, you are right. The jars do cool down when you add the tomatoes. They won’t be cold though. They might be sort of lukewarm or even end up at room temperature. That is why you want the water in your canner hot, but not boiling hot. It can be a bit hotter than your jars; canning jars are pretty sturdy but don’t have a drastic difference in temperature. Great question.
The reason you must use a pressure canner is that vegetables are a low-acid food and are a risk for botulism. Here are some pages on canning safety that you might be interested in: Canning Safety.
Assuming your spaghetti sauce has some vegetables (onion, green peppers, garlic, celery, carrots, or others), you will need to use a pressure canner to process it.
You really do need to process your jars of tomatoes but it doesn’t have to be a water bath. It can also be in a pressure canner. You should not do what is sometimes called “open kettle canning”. You can read more about open kettle canning here.
Oh goodness! Canned tomatoes and tomato sauce are basic in any pantry. It can be used as a base for soup or stews. You can make and can salsa but you can also open a jar of home-canned tomatoes add vinegar, peppers, onions, garlic, etc and make fresh salsa from it.
Just like regular-sized tomatoes. :). The trick is the peeling step. You can’t skip it. You’d be surprised how easily cherry tomatoes peel though. Be sure and watch close they don’t need to be blanched as long.
Tips for Home Canning Tomatoes
Dehydrating Tomatoes in a Food Dehydrator
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Source: The National Center for Home Food Preservation
Page Last Updated: 6/24/2021
Can I pour off some of the tomato juices before canning?
No with these directions. The juices from the tomatoes will fill up the jar. You don’t pour any off.
What do I do with the water, in the raw method, when ready to use the tomatoes? Thanks for the video, I’ve got a ton of tomatoes this year!
Do you mean the liquid in the jars of tomatoes? It really just depends on how you’re using the end product. You could drain it off, reserving the liquid to add to soup or something like that. Or if you’re making sauce, you might just blend the tomatoes with the juice, etc. It just depends. 🙂
-Rachel (Sharon’s assistant)
I’ve been canning tomatoes for years without removing the skins. Why? Because that part, like all fruit is where the majority of the vitamin C is. Just remove the stem and any blems. Toss ’em into a food processor and blend. Fill hot cleaned jars and can as per usual; no need for added salt. Folks outta learn how food tastes without added SOS, i.e., added salt/oil/sugar. Add a touch of citric acid depending on the size of the jar. ‘Tis unlikely humans will survive as a civilization continuing to do things the same way we’ve always have. This is… Read more »
Hi John, The reason it is recommended that you remove the skins is… that is the way it was tested. The skins may have more bacterial load than just the flesh of the fruit. Washing them cleans them… but not as much as peeling them. this is a hot debate in the canning world!
Citric acid works, I always use lemon juice just because that is what I have on hand. 🙂 Just be sure you acidify your jars.
As for salt… no problem it is perfectly safe to leave it out.
I have canned tomatoes without removing the skins, with excellent results. This practise was not tested as the skins can be undesirable to consume,. With domestic kitchens able to use food processors to break the skins down into small pieces, it has become aesthetically feasible to include the skins when canning tomatoes. Tomato skins have good nutritional value. Personally, since items like cherries have been tested and can be canned safely with the skins on, it seems unlikely that tomatoes would be all that different. Since we can bushels and bushels of tomatoes, we are going to start using a… Read more »
Thanks for sharing. I checked out the document you included and found it interesting. It looks to me like someone who is asking for the research to be done on canning with tomato skins. I do hope they fund this and do the testing! It would be reassuring. I do still recommend taking the skins off.
First time ever canning tomatoes. I just started canning this year, after deciding I wanted to branch out my garden to food along with flowers.
I’m pretty excited. A lot easier than I thought it would be.
PS. LOVED THE SCRIPTURE at the end of this page.
you don’t mention the amountof water needed in the canner. Do you put the jars in and then cover them with water or do you only fill to the metal ring?
Hi Donna, Since the basic instructions on how to use a canner are the same for all foods I’ve put that on a single page with the food specifics on the recipe pages. I do have a link to that on the page but maybe I need to make it more prominent. The answers to your questions about water levels depend on the type of processing you want to do. Here are the links for you. If you want to process this in the waterbath check this page for specifics. If you want to process in a pressure canner check… Read more »
Is doing a raw pack of tomatoes similar to making diced tomatoes? Tomatoes don’t grow super well in my area but not impossible so I would have to likely buy them in bulk to make all of the tomato products I like to use-diced, sauce, paste, and crushed. I’m trying to make a list of foods I want to can and gathering recipes for them so I can get started-and then figure out where I am going to put it all lol and is 1 pint equivalent to a 15oz can from the store?
Yes, raw pack tomatoes would be similar to diced tomatoes. Except the texture will be a bit different. but I’ve substituted my raw pack tomatoes for diced in many recipes and had no problem. And one pint is 16 oz… so it’s close. Again I’ve used a pint to replace a can of something and it works fine. 1 oz difference is pretty small.